College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources logo

Hawaiian Native Plant Propagation Database

database logo

Styphelia tameiameiae
Alternative Botanical Names
Cyathodes banksii
Cyathodes douglasii
Cyathodes imbricata
Cyathodes macraeana
Cyathodes tameiameiae
Styphelia douglasii
Styphelia grayana

Common Names
'A'ali'i mahu
Potential or Traditional Uses
Lei (Flower or Seed)
Photo of Styphelia tameiameiae
Styphelia tameiameiae is occurs in a variety of forms ranging from low, spreading shrubs to small erect trees. In the tree form, it can grow up to 15 feet tall. The bark is brown to black and rough, especially on the larger stems. The bark on the slender twigs is brown and scaly.

The leathery, narrow leaves are very small, about 1/10 of an inch wide and 3/8 of an inch long, and generally spaced close together on the twigs. The top surface of the leaves is dark green and the lower surface is light green to white with conspicuous veins.

The white flowers are have the shape of a 5-pointed star and are about 1/8 inch in diameter. They occur as single flowers or in small clusters in the leaf axils. The flowers can be either perfect (having both male and female parts) or they can be unisexual. When the flowers are unisexual, the male and female flowers occur on separate plants. (Lamb 1981; Wagner 1990)

Habitat and Geographic Range
Styphelia tameiameiae is indigenous to the Marquesas and Hawaiian Islands. It occurs on all of the main Hawaiian islands except Ni'ihau and Kaho'olawe, but it may have grown on both of those islands in the past. It can be found growing at elevations ranging from 50 to over 10,000 feet. It grows in a variety of habitats ranging from open areas of low elevation forests to high elevation wet forests to alpine shrublands and bogs. It can even occasionally be found growing on windward coastal sites. (Wagner 1990)
Propagation by Seeds
The fruit of Styphelia tameiameiae is a round red, pink, or white drupe which is a fleshy fruit with a hard pit like a peach. The drupe is about 1/4 inch in diameter. It has red-orange flesh containing 5 to 8 small, pale brown seeds.

Styphelia tameiameiae is a difficult species to grow from seed. Germination rates are very low and the seedlings are slow growing. The seeds have to be removed from the pulp. One approach recommended by Stratton's informants is to gently crack the fruit with a hammer. The seeds need to be removed from the fruit and soaked in vinegar for 20 minutes. After this, the seeds are soaked in 120 degree F water for 2 hours.

The other procedure suggested in Stratton et al is to ripen the fruits in a plastic bag. This softens the pulp making the seeds easier to clean. After ripening, the fruit flesh is removed by either placing the fruits in a fine strainer under running water or breaking up the fruit by hand in a bowl of water. The lighter pulp floats and can be poured off. The seeds should then be soaked either in hot water for a few hours or in room temperature water for 24 to 48 hours. After soaking, the seeds are placed in 5% acetic acid (vinegar) for 5 minutes and then rinsed thoroughly.

The treated seeds should be planted 1/8 to 1/2 inch deep in a shallow container. Use a well-drained planting medium such as a mixture of 3 parts #2 perlite to 1 part Sunshine Mix #4 or 1 part peat to 1 part perlite to 1 part cinder. Keep the planting medium moist and place the containers in a shaded area. Placing them in a covered area will allow better control of soil moisture and prevent rain damage. After germination, gradually acclimatize the seedlings to full sun.

Even with these treatments, germination time ranges from 1 to 6 months with a 50% germination rate. Untreated seeds have a germination time of 4 to 9 months and a very low germination rate.

Best germination is obtained using fresh seed. Stratton suggests that if it is necessary to store the seed, it should be cleaned, air dried and placed in a paper bag or envelope. It can then be stored in an airtight container with dessicant in a cool place at 25% relative humidity, or in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

Criley examined the embryos in seeds of Styphelia tameiameiae to determine if immature embryos were a reason for difficult germination. However, he found that the embryos were developed in mature fruit. Criley also noted that Ted Radovich had successfully cultured Styphelia tameiameiae seed aseptically. Criley 1999; Lamb 1981; Stratton 1998; Wagner 1990)

Propagation by Cuttings
No information located to date.
Propagation by Division
Not applicable.
Propagation by Air Layers
Stratton et al suggest that 12 inch air layers may be successful. (Stratton 1998)
Propagation by Grafting
No information located to date.
Propagation by Tissue Culture
No information located to date.
Criley, Richard A. 1999. Aloha Hawai'i. American Nurseryman 190 (3):50-61.

Lamb, Samuel H. 1981. Native trees and shrubs of the Hawaiian Islands. Santa Fe, New Mexico: Sunstone Press. p. 104-105.

Stratton, Lisa, Leslie Hudson, Nova Suenaga, and Barrie Morgan. 1998. Overview of Hawaiian dry forest propagation techniques. Newsletter of the Hawaiian Botanical Society 37 (2):13, 15-27.

Wagner, Warren L., Darrel R. Herbst, and S. H. Sohmer. 1990. Manual of the flowering plants of Hawai'i. 2 vols., Bishop Museum Special Publication 83. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press and Bishop Museum Press. p. 590-591.

Search Database

Browse Database --
By Botanical Name
By Common Name

Other Native Hawaiian Plant Sites

Other Plant Propagation Sites

Database Bibliography

Database Home Page

Other CTAHR Databases

The image in this record is used with permission from Dr. Gerald Carr's Web site "Hawaiian Native Plants" at

Last updated:
3 March 2001

Please send comments and suggestions to